ZEST FOR LIFE

It speaks a lot when drag queens sing and dance their hearts out as a Kuala Lumpur restaurant’s main entertainment attraction on a rainy night in predominantly Muslim Malaysia. “Here’s a song for our friends from Manila,” intoned one of the cross-dressers before belting out a heavily inflected version of Gary Valenciano’s “‘Di na Natuto.”

The fiesta vibe and enthusiasm of the performers, as well as those of the food servers, were from ordinary folks who were obviously happy to be back in the daily grind of making a living.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR TAKEN USING XIAOMI 12 LITE

“Two years, we’re without any source of income, but all that is behind us now. Tonight, we eat and party hoping Covid will finally leave us,” she added to canned and actual applause from Filipino influencers and journalists.

Elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur, just like in Manila, there’s a renewed sense of hope that businesses that closed down and jobs that had been lost because of the pandemic are now coming back for the taking.

Still, Central Market has remained a ghostly shell of its former bazaar-brimming self where people used to hunt for bargains shoulder-to-shoulder. The Old Town Coffee Shop was no more, although the java sold under the still iconic brand can still be had at corner stores.

DANCE away the night, the drag queens did.

At the Indian Center, one could imagine momentarily being transported to Dangwa, Manila as flower shops add the colors of the rainbow to otherwise dreary streets. Converted from ringgit, the flowers’ prices in pesos would have approximated those sold in the Philippines.

At Bukit Bintang, a Syrian presides over carving gigantic beef and chicken shawarmas, pausing his work just enough to say to Daily Tribune that the walls of rotating roasting meat would be gone by the end of the day. True enough, minutes before midnight, mere scraps of the beef and chicken were all that were left on the skewers.

A taste of things to come; of people’s voracious appetite to take everything that a post-pandemic world has to offer, whether it be at the posh shops of the Petronas Twin Towers or miles away back in the Philippines, like in Makati City and The Fort, BGC, Taguig.

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